Saturday, April 26, 2008

Trevor's Review of Coetzee's Disgrace

This book was a quick read--not necessarily because it is short but because it is one that must be read. David Lurie is a character to be despised, at least, that's what I wanted to do. I couldn't fully despise the man though. Somehow, I could not help but pity him and see underneath the cold, selfish skin a real human being.

The novel opens up when Lurie's prostitute stops meeting with him. He's seen her outside of the hotel room where until now they've had a great relationship. She cannot deal with the fact that she's been seen by a client in her daily life, so she drops him. He finds solace by seducing one of his students. She is captured. He won't let her go, even though he sees that she is crushed with her guilt and her desire. Eventually he is exiled from his community, mostly by choice because he will not go along with the type of apology that was demanded of him. He goes to live with his daughter, who herself has a troubled past. In a sense, this is where the book begins. And there is more disgrace to come.

An excellent book. Exquisite craftsmanship. There are so many levels to this story, all of them tied together with profound insight and masterful allusion. However, this is not a light read. While the story itself is simple to follow, the story is devestating. My favorite aspect of the book is how well Coetzee portrays the racial tensions in South Africa. It's subtle yet fully realized. Coetzee knows how to write sentences that evoke so much emotion and energy. I admit that I have not fully informed myself of the criticism this book takes from those who purport to know more about South Africa and race relationships. I'm not sure how I'd feel about it if I knew more, but as I stand now, I highly recommend it both for its stylistic, stark beauty and for its substance.
4 stars out of 5.

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